Leading corporate worship nationwide, Phil Wickham is known for hits such as “At Your Name (Yahweh, Yahweh),” “This is Amazing Grace” and “Your Love Awakens Me.” He describes the truths he is learning with a powerful and poignant voice through enthusiastic and passionate cries of worship. After a two year wait, Wickham returns with Living Hope on August 3rd. The album was preceded by the impactful singles “Living Hope,” “Great Things,” “Song in My Soul,” “How Great is Your Love” and “Till I Found You.”
What it Sounds Like:
I've long been a fan of Brit-rock bands like U2, Keane, Snow Patrol and others who make emotional alternative rock music but don't always have edifying messages. The first time I heard Phil Wickham's song "Grace" from his self-titled major label debut, I was hooked by his enthusiastic and reverent songs, layered with a Brit-rock musical vibe. I've felt that he's improved with each new album and Living Hope takes me to another realm of holiness and thirsting for God's presence.
Phil Wickham has breathed several new worship anthems into the Church, like "You're Beautiful," "Cannons," "Because of Your Love," "At Your Name (Yahweh, Yahweh)," “This is Amazing Grace,” “My All in All,” “Stand in Awe” and “Your Love Awakens Me.” We sing all of those songs at my church on a regular basis and you’ll want to add “Living Hope,” “Great Things,” “Till I Found You” and “Song in My Soul” to your worship set-lists immediately.
"You've been faithful through every storm / You'll be faithful forevermore / You have done great things / And I know You will do it again / For Your promise is "Yes and amen" are the biblical cries of worship in the heartfelt and soul-stirring song "Great Things." You’ll also instantly sing along with "Till I Found You,” “How Great is Your Love" and "Song in My Soul," which features guest vocals from Hollyn. Each song includes tender and powerful vocals and takes listeners on an emotional and spiritual journey with every lyric sung about our faith in Jesus. Every song is completely anointed, Spirit-led and emotionally captivating. A sincere desire to experience the presence of God can be heard in every song, with expressions including “Let my life be to You a symphony / Singin' out "holy, holy" / All my days / Every single breath I breathe / Singin' out "holy, You are holy" in the standout instant classic, “Song in My Soul.”
Best Song on the Record:
“Living Hope” is a biblically-inspired standout, co-written with Bethel Music’s Brian Johnson. The lyrics proclaim the cry of my heart, “The cross has spoken / I am forgiven / The King of Kings calls me His own / Beautiful Savior / I'm Yours forever / Jesus Christ, my living hope.” I'm really engaged by the emotional vocals and the deep, prayerful lyrics throughout the album. There are several standout songs. If you've always enjoyed Wickham’s corporate worship anthems, you're in for a treat with this album. It has a great balance of upbeat and reflective songs and it is chock-full of songs for the Church and songs for personal reflection and worship.
This album provides listeners with songs that proclaim acceptance of God’s love in any circumstance. Living Hope provides words of appreciation and adoration of God. Phil’s enthusiastic and reverent style of writing and singing praise and worship songs has consistently been a draw for me. His prayerful sentiments are consistently filled with his personal adoration of God. I've felt that he's improved with each new album and this is my top worship album of the year. It is a completely worshipful album, in the style of Phil's previous offerings of enthusiastic praise and worship. Every single song could be added to your Sunday morning worship set.
Plumb's Best Album | Posted June-23-2018 What You Need to Know:
In listening to Plumb's journey over the past few albums, you can hear how her life and faith is reflected in her art. On her album Exhale, you can hear Tiffany's vertical expressions of relying completely on God for His breath and Holy Spirit to sustain her. Plumb's eighth release Beautifully Broken follows the success of her previous albums Need You Now, Exhale and God Help Me EP. Those albums featured the hit songs "Need You Now," "Don't Deserve You," "Lord I'm Ready Now," "Exhale" and “God Help Me.” The songs on Beautifully Broken continue with similar high caliber declarations of dependence on God. The first time I heard Plumb's song "God-Shaped Hole," released at the end of the 90s, I immediately connected to the catchy melody and poignant lyrics. Throughout her career, she has continued to entertain and challenge listeners in that way, looking to point us to the One who can fill that "God-shaped hole in all of us."
What it Sounds Like:
Title track “Beautifully Broken" is an engaging song with Plumb’s passionate vocals setting the tone for this exceptional album. Several of Plumb's songs over the years are accessible pop and worship songs that are deep in meaning and content and this album is no exception. So many people can relate to the messages of these songs. He is a God of infinite second chances. These songs are loaded with comforting messages that there is always hope. Breathe it in like oxygen, and God's hope will turn whatever you are going through into something different for His glory. The standout songs also include “Impossible,” “I Can Do This,” “God Help Me,” “I’m Not Alone” and “Fight For You.”
“God Help Me” really engages me from start to finish in my own time of worship and reflection about the attributes of God. We are all in need of our great God to fix our messes and turn them into messages in some way. The song is based on Psalm 120:1: "In my distress I cried to the Lord, and He heard me." You'll be blessed by this powerful song which is a stand-out anthem with a convicting declaration: "Help me to go, or God help me to stay, I'm feeling so alone here, and I know that You're faithful, but I can barely breathe, God help me." We are called as Christians to believe in the freedom that we have in the cross of Jesus. We are free from our addictions, our insecurities, and perfectionism. Jesus came to die for us so that we can all truly live in Him.
Best Song on the Record:
“Beautifully Broken” is a beautiful way to express our devotion and gives me hope and inspiration as one of God's children. For me, songs like "Beautifully Broken" provide opportunities for God to whisper to me my true identity--not found in what I do or don't do, but in who I am--more importantly, to whom I belong. This song and the biblical truth behind the song is such an encouraging reminder of God's sovereignty and that He has been, is, and always will be with us. If God is with us, we can endure anything. This song is also about submitting all of your worries, anxieties, and stress to God and letting Him be your guide. God wants to walk beside you, and He wants us to be bold and unafraid by acknowledging that, "You're beautifully broken, and you can be whole again. Even a million scars don't change whose you are, you're worthy, beautifully broken."
I absolutely love Plumb's intentionality and complete focus on God's provision in her life. Plumb's songs on Beautifully Broken celebrate God's breath, His Holy Spirit, being breathed into her life and her marriage. As a Christian father and husband, I can really relate to her songs about anxiety, marriage and parenthood. Plumb is one of my favorite writers in all of Christian music because her songs are so emotional, vulnerable and authentic. Plumb is an anointed songwriter and singer, and she has a profound way of piercing my soul with her poignant words, tender singing and inspirational truths. The picture of God's unconditional love for us after all that we've done wrong is profoundly captured in these songs. God wants us to know that He's faithful to complete what's He's started in all of us who have put our hope and trust in Jesus. This is Plumb’s best album and one of my top albums of the year.
“The Breakup Song” is best described as an upbeat, empowering anthem to sing over ourselves and against fear. Francesca sets the tone with the opening lyrics, “Sick and tired of being sick and tired / Had as much of you as I can take / I’m so done, so over being afraid.” Musically the song builds to match the intensity of the lyrics and if you like “Real Love” by Blanca, this song also has a striking message that stays with you throughout the day.
Francesca has consistently impressed me with her mature faith and sincere desire to serve Jesus. I love how expressive the song is, and it was written from a place of reflecting on what it means to be free from fear and to trust in God's plans for our lives. The song is intended to lead listeners to that place also as Francesca invites listeners to sing along, “Fear, you don’t own me!” The message is based on several biblical truths, including 1 John 4:18-19: "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love because He first loved us,” and 2 Timothy 1:7: “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
I have found that by being washed by the water of the Word, I am strengthened with the truth that God wants us to know that fear, worry and being anxious is not His plan for our lives. By reading the Bible every day, God wants us to have a daily reminder not to be afraid. This song is all about submitting all of your fears, worries, anxieties and stress to God and letting Him be your guide. God wants to walk beside you, and He wants us to be bold and unafraid. This song is about submitting to the Lordship of Jesus over our lives. We all deal with some level of fear, worry and anxiety. God knows that about us, and after I read somewhere that He tells us to not have fear or worry in His Word 365 times, enough for one time each day, I have been attentive to that concept in my daily Bible study. This song is an excellent companion to sing over your life, “Fear, you will never be welcome here!”
Spirit Moves | Posted May-16-2018 What You Need to Know:
This compilation is unique from the legendary Redding, California based Bethel Music ministry in that it is comprised solely of extended spontaneous worship moments. The voices featured include Brian and Jenn Johnson, Steffany Gretzinger, Kalley Heiligenthal, Melissa Helser, Amanda Cook, Jeremy Riddle, Paul McClure and Leeland Mooring, among others.
What it Sounds Like:
Moments: Mighty Sound is best described as a deeply moving atmospheric worship experience filled with abandon and adoration of our King of Kings and Lord of Lords. If you enjoy Have It All and Starlight by Bethel Music, Love Has a Name by Jesus Culture and There is More by Hillsong Worship, this album is a must-have addition to your collection, creating moments of deep connection with Jesus.
These artists have all consistently impressed me with their mature faith. A sincere desire to experience the presence of God can be heard in every single moment, with expressions including "we are transformed by this one thing, to know Your presence and see Your beauty" from the standout song "Spirit Move," "You don't give Your heart in pieces" from "Pieces" and "You're my everything, You are my anchor in the wind and the waves" sung to Jesus in "Come to Me." The spontaneous moments led by Jenn Johnson are great ways to profess your faith to Jesus directly by praying for Him to "crash over me" from "In Over My Head." You can sincerely pray the words along with Jenn, proclaiming "whether I sink, whether I swim, it makes no difference when I'm beautifully in over my head."
Best Song on the Record:
I can't get enough of "Spirit Move" led by Kalley Heiligenthal. For me it sets the tone for the entire worship experience with the beautiful declaration of dependence on God's provision in our lives: "Spirit come and Spirit pour out, come and blow on through, Spirit move, we are ready for You!"
Moments: Mighty Sound is about proclaiming our dependence on God and crying out in awe and wonder for His presence. Every song is completely anointed, Spirit-led and emotionally captivating. The standout songs include "Reckless Love," "Pieces," "Come to Me" and "In Over My Head," each one expressing the yearnings I feel in my heart for more of God's presence in my daily moments with Him, making it one of my top worship albums of the year.
Redemptive and Moving | Posted April-11-2018 What You Need to Know:
GMA Dove Award-Winning singer-songwriter Christa Wells is best known for writing the song "Held," which was recorded by Natalie Grant, along with co-writing "Need You Now" and "God Help Me," which were recorded by Plumb. Christa released two of my favorite indie-pop "gourmet" projects of the past decade, How Emptiness Sings (2011) and Feed Your Soul (2013), which both ranked in my top 5 albums of the year. After a covers album in 2015, she returns with a seven song album titled Velveteen.
What it Sounds Like:
Opening track "Down Down Low" is an engaging song, with Christa's passionate vocals setting the tone for this exceptional album. The song is an unashamed declaration observing that "everybody wants to talk, nobody wants to listen." Christa hooked me with the lyrics in the bridge, "hear the whisper of humility, love will write a sweeter melody," which is essentially the thesis statement of this redemptive, personal and moving album. Christa's engaging music and thought-provoking lyrics are something to truly savor, and her soothing vocals will remind you of Brooke Fraser ("What a Beautiful Name"), Sara Groves ("It's Me"), JJ Heller ("What Love Really Means") and Lady Gaga ("Million Reasons"), both in vocal tone and subject matter.
"Come After Me" features prayerful lyrics proclaiming "I need to know Your love will come after me." "One Day" has Christa confessing, "and you only keep moving by the grace of God... you'll do it one day, one breath, one prayer, one thing at a time." "Holy Ground" sings the Psalm 103 inspired lyrics, "all that is within us, all that is without, all of life is holy ground... holy, holy, holy." "Velveteen" captures the essence of being a Proverbs 31 woman: "If my beauty starts to fade, I've been held in a thousand ways... if perfect turns to perfect mess, I'm as real as real can be, call me velveteen."
Best Song on the Record:
This album is filled with several of my new favorite songs by Christa Wells, which is saying a lot since I've had her prior albums in heavy rotation since they released. I generally rank my favorite songs based on how they move me emotionally. On this album, that includes the standout songs "Down Down Low," "Hold This House Up," "One Day" and "Velveteen." I actually can't listen to "Hold This House Up" or "One Day" without welling up, and you'll get emotionally swept up in the opening lyrics in "One Day:" "it's hard to sing when you're crying... it's hard to sleep when you're fighting for your life." For me, "One Day" is the standout song on this exceptional project.
Christa Wells is an anointed singer-songwriter, and she has a profound way of examining the deeper feelings buried in my heart and bringing me closer to God with her poignant words and tender singing. If you are looking for the words to express your feelings to God in times of hurting and pain, these songs are a wonderful companion. These are the most transparent, vulnerable and authentic songs I've heard in quite a while. If you like the folk-style "gourmet" singer-songwriters Ellie Holcomb, JJ Heller, Sara Groves and Audrey Assad, you need to check out Velveteen, my top album of the year.
The Best Hillsong Yet | Posted April-05-2018 What You Need to Know:
Following up their standout worship album Let There Be Light, which featured their popular, Grammy-winning song "What a Beautiful Name," churches and believers around the world celebrate the release of Hillsong Worship's latest There is More on April 6th. I have consistently been blessed by each album from Hillsong Worship, with their staples "Mighty to Save," "Hosanna," "Stronger," "Forever Reign," "Cornerstone," "God is Able," "This I Believe (The Creed)," "O Praise the Name (Anástasis)" and "What a Beautiful Name" all being sung at church worship services worldwide and putting the Word of God into the minds, mouths and hearts of Christians everywhere.
What it Sounds Like:
If you've always enjoyed Hillsong's corporate worship anthems, you're in for a treat with this album. It has a great balance of male and female-led vocals, and it is chock-full of songs for the Church and songs for personal reflection and worship. Many of the songs are arranged in a very singable and catchy style, such as the gorgeous Brooke Fraser-led song "Who You Say I Am," which is filled with great statements of faith, celebrating our freedom in Christ: "Who the Son sets free, oh is free indeed. I'm a child of God, Yes I am, in my Father's house, there's a place for me."
"Who You Say I Am" is a biblically-inspired standout. I'm really engaged by the emotional vocals and the deep, prayerful lyrics throughout the album. "I open up my heart to You now, do what only You can, Jesus have Your way in me now" are the biblical cries of worship in the heartfelt and soul-stirring song "Touch of Heaven." "The Passion" and "New Wine" each feature tender and powerful vocals and takes listeners on an emotional and spiritual journey with every lyric sung about faith in our Lord and Savior, Jesus.
Best Song on the Record:
There are several standouts. "New Wine" is an instant classic, and "Touch of Heaven" stirs my heart into an immediate state of worship and takes it up a notch with the Brit-rock guitar riffs. "The Passion" is biblical and congregational. "So Will I (100 Billion X)" is gorgeously led by Taya Smith. The song I can't get out of my head is the Brooke Fraser-led "Who You Say I Am," so I'll highlight that song as the must-download track, but you'll want the whole album.
There is More is loaded with several stirring new worship songs that set me in the proper mindset to praise God for His love. I really enjoy the exciting musical vibe of this album, loaded with stellar vocals, catchy melodies and solid lyrics reflecting unashamed faith in Jesus. If you're looking for additions to your Sunday morning set list, I especially recommend "The Passion," "Remembrance," "Valentine," "Touch of Heaven," "New Wine" and one of my top worship songs of the year, "Who You Say I Am." I eagerly await each new Hillsong release, and There is More is a truly stellar offering of worship, my all-time favorite Hillsong album. There is More is a wonderful reminder that there is immeasurably more to our God that we can think or imagine, and this album captures that sentiment.
Light That Can't Be Dimmed | Posted March-29-2018
Following up her stellar worship offering Undone, which was one of my top 10 worship albums of 2014, Bethel Music's Steffany Gretzinger returns with Blackout on Good Friday, 2018. On last year's Starlight by Bethel Music, you can hear Steffany singing on "King of My Heart" and "Extravagant." Keeping that momentum going, this album also features an empowering theme of the Lord reigning in our hearts and shining like a city on a hill in song after song.
What it Sounds Like:
Blackout is best described as an intimate personal worship experience with an ethereal tone. If you enjoy After All These Years by Brian and Jenn Johnson, Where His Light Was by Kristene DiMarco and Brave New World by Amanda Cook, this album is an excellent addition to your praise and worship collection.
Steffany has consistently impressed me with her mature faith, and a sincere desire for the presence of God and to see His Kingdom on earth is found in every song. Each track is about proclaiming her dependence on God, which stirs my heart, mind and soul to bow before Jesus, our Savior. The album is designed to be listened to in track order as you'll go on the journey with Steffany, from the opener "Save Me," with the confession "I tried to be the hero for a day / But all my super powers failed to save / So I turned in my ego and my cape," to the closer "Blackout," with the declaration "In a blackout / We will illuminate the dark / They won't escape the beaming / We will glimmer, we will glow." I am moved by the reminders that we can't save ourselves, and once we are redeemed by Jesus, we shine light that can't be dimmed. Let your light shine and "illuminate the dark."
Best Song on the Record:
I can't get enough of "Save Me," which sets the tone for the entire worship experience with the beautiful declaration of dependence on God's provision in our lives: "It all starts with breathing You in / Breathing You in Deeply / I've been drowning under my skin / No one but You can save me." I get swept up in the vertical praise and worship to our Savior.
Blackout is about proclaiming the majesty of God and crying out in awe and wonder for His Presence. All of the songs are memorable, personal and worshipful. These moving and reverent recordings are poignant songs of adoration. Every song is completely anointed, Spirit-led and emotionally captivating. Steffany's powerful and gorgeous vocals keep me hanging on every word she sings. The standout songs each feature an engaging and emotive musical style while phrasing her prayer-filled songs in a creative and personal way, making it one of my top worship albums of the year.
The Reckless Love of God | Posted February-20-2018
Passion's songs are some of the most popular in modern worship music, with many of their songs sung in churches all across the country including staples "10,000 Reasons," "One Thing Remains," "My Victory," "Even So Come" and "This We Know." The live releases drawn from each year's conferences have been highly anticipated since the first edition in 1998. 2018's Passion: Whole Heart marks the latest edition and features the most balanced lineup yet, with new standout songs by Kristian Stanfill, Crowder, Melodie Malone, Sean Curran, Brett Younker and Matt Redman.
"Whole Heart" featuring Kristian Stanfill has become my personal worship anthem, and it is already one of my top worship songs of the year. "Your love / It comes with no conditions / You give us Your whole heart / My hope is in the blood of Jesus / I know who I am / Because of who You are" are Stanfill's cries of praise set to a worshipful upbeat Brit-rock musical arrangement that will have you singing along.
"God, You're So Good" and "More Like Jesus" are led by Kristian Stanfill and each feature emotive vocals and stirring lyrics. "God, You're So Good" also features Melodie Malone and includes the sincere and emotive lyrics of submission in the bridge: "I am blessed, I am called, I am healed, I am whole, I am saved in Jesus' name." "All My Hope" by Crowder features Tauren Wells and is yet another great song for the Church, which I hope I'll be singing with fellow believers. The song has a great worshipful chorus, with Crowder and Wells singing "All my hope is in Jesus / Thank God that yesterday's gone / All my sins are forgiven / I've been washed by the blood."
"Reckless Love" is a gorgeous offering by Melodie Malone. The song was written by Bethel Music's Cory Asbury, proclaiming "Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God / Oh, it chases me down fights 'til I'm found, leaves the ninety-nine / I couldn't earn it, I don't deserve it, still You give Yourself away." You can sincerely pray these words along with Melodie. Like her great Passion recordings, "Forever" and "Simple Pursuit," you'll worship our King Jesus right along with her and express your eternal gratitude for God's reckless love.
The Bottom Line: These passionate worship songs are sung with vocal sincerity and reverence, with Biblically based lyrics. For your worship setlists, I especially recommend "Whole Heart," "God, You're So Good," "More Like Jesus," "All My Hope" and my worship song of the year, "Reckless Love." All of the songs are catchy, exciting and worshipful. I'm impressed by the consistent quality and fresh, worshipful songs that come from Passion. This album is no exception. Passion: Whole Heart is about proclaiming the "reckless love" of God and crying out for His Presence throughout this incredible worship experience.
The Best News | Posted January-22-2018
Fresh off the success of As Family We Go, Rend Collective's newest album Good News is available everywhere January 19. Listening to the opening tracks "Life is Beautiful," "I Will Be Undignified" and lead single "Rescuer (Good News)," it's clear that the themes of clinging to the Good News of the Gospel and coming together in unity regardless of our differences runs throughout this excellent album, the best overall album by one of my favorite bands in any genre.
Good News will have you hooked right from the opening notes of "Life is Beautiful," which really sets the tone for the album. The upbeat song is a reminder that our worship of God should not be based on our circumstances, but based on who God is. Commit your life to Jesus and offer Him your heart and your life as you sing along with this great song: "Life is beautiful, You are the color, life is wonderful, You are the wonder, rejoice, rejoice, in the sunshine, in the sorrow, in the trial, in the trouble, oh my soul rejoice!"
"I Will Be Undignified" captures the energy and sentiment of David dancing undignified before the Lord in a similar exciting musical style as "Celebrate" and "Burn like a Star." You'll find yourself instantly worshipping along with the band during this album, with "I will be undignified" appropriately capturing the joyful essence of their music ministry.
In "Rescuer (Good News)," Christians can all relate to our unending second chances offered by God, captured in Chris's vulnerable and sincere crying out throughout the celebratory song. "Counting Every Blessing" is a surefire hit song which uses the truth of Scripture as reminders of God's goodness. No matter what obstacle and anxiety you are facing, you can count on God's promises in His Word. I get choked up when I pray along with the prayerful lyrics: "I am counting every blessing, surely every season You are good to me."
Chris's vocals in "Nailed to the Cross" are emotive, prayerful and honest, which makes the words he's singing all the more powerful. Similar to past songs "Simplicity," "One and Only" and "Immeasurably More," Chris cries out "I will preach the Gospel to myself, that I am not a man condemned, when Jesus Christ is my defense. My sin is nailed to the Cross."
"Resurrection Day" is an encouragement, reminding that regardless of our circumstances, we need to truly be free in Christ. I love when artists take concepts from the Bible and turn it into a catchy song filled with truth: "because You stand in victory, because You crush the enemy, I can get up off the floor. This is my resurrection day... nothing's gonna hold me down."
"Weep with Me" is achingly beautiful, both musically and perhaps even more so lyrically. The song poignantly sings "Yet I will praise You, yet I will sing of Your name, here in the shadows, here I will offer my praise, what's true in the light, is still true in the dark." The beautiful melody and lyrics are sincere and moving as the song cries out "Lord, I believe You weep with me."
Good News is one of the most meaningful and uplifting albums I've ever heard. In this era of bad news, it is so refreshing to hear a celebration of God's Word, of the truth that Jesus gave His life to redeem all that was lost. This album includes a solid mix of folk-style indie tinged worship. The musical and lyrical excitement of Rend Collective's engaging live performance is perfectly captured in these recordings.
The Bottom Line: Good News is Rend Collective's best overall album to date. Do yourself a favor and buy this album immediately.
Christ-Focused, Imaginative Story-song | Posted December-23-2017
In the song "Jesus is King," Bradley Bridges lays out his need for Jesus. The song is a bold declaration about the transformation that takes place in the hearts and lives of people who encounter the love of Christ, with references to learning the 66 books of the Bible and growing up in a Christian home.
"Jesus is King" is a prayerful and catchy song reminding listeners to live life to the fullest in praise and adoration of our King, Jesus. This song is sure to connect with all listeners who like songs filled with truth and yearning for God. If you like folk-pop style melodies and story-songs from artists like Matthew West, Josh Wilson and Jason Gray, then you should really enjoy Bradley Bridges.